by Abraham Bolish
The recent backlash against MOOCs has tended to romanticize an ideal of public higher education. Yet, education has always been tied up with systems of domination, and MOOCs present an opportunity to reveal the contradictions of higher education—to expose the emperor’s dirty secrets. Instead of ‘re-clothing the emperor’ with appeals to a lost ideal of public higher ed, through eight propositions I argue that we should seize the ‘MOOC moment’ as a start for breaking the capitalist, colonial chains of global higher education. Continue reading
Summary: Drawing on organizing experiences in Seattle and the University of Washington, Ariel speaks of tensions in horizontalist movements. Within the university, she reflects on an anti-capitalist approach to service learning, organizing within and against a graduate student union, and creating a student-worker coalition. Across the university-city boundaries, she analyzes Occupy Seattle and resistance to both the non-profit- and academic-industrial complexes.
– An Interview with Matthew Evsky (Part 2) –
In this interview, Matthew Evsky* speaks on ways that the education system is bound up with policing, mass incarceration, and settler colonialism. How can we integrate education struggles with abolitionist, decolonial approaches? For resistant alternatives, we can look to Liberation Schools and free, cooperative universities embedded in communities. Facing major barriers to these from racism, we must call on white people to renege on their racist bargain with the state and capital. How can we popularize such an abolitionist politics with narratives that convince people to be for annihilating the very system that gives them privileges?
Stefano Harney and Fred Moten have collaborated on various projects over the past fifteen years, including a number of essays on the conditions of academic labor. Drawing from the black radical tradition, autonomist and postcolonial theory, they have elaborated an approach to politics that is more concerned with the less socially visible aspects of organization and interaction. Currently they are working on a book entitled the undercommons: fugitive planning & black study that will be released by Minor Compositions / Autonomedia in Spring 2013 [Update: it was released and you can read it here]. As part of that project Stevphen Shukaitis conducted several interviews with them to give an overview of their work and approach. This interview is an excerpt for ClassWarU from their conversation.
Drawing on his extensive research on the history of universities, Mark Paschal debunks mystified views of higher education. Instead of relying on overly sophisticated theories that are tough to popularize, Mark recommends focusing on what attracts people to universities: opportunities to make better lives for themselves. We can create autonomous universities with a kind of vocational training more in line with historical materialism than the humanities—to learn skills for taking over empty buildings and holding down city blocks for radical causes. To connect such organizing with the informal networks that already exist in marginalized communities, rather than presuming that the knowledge and skills gained in universities can be useful in struggles, learn others’ modes of communicating and ask questions about how we can be useful. Since the fucked-up-ness of the capitalist university-prison-industrial complex can seem overwhelming, rather than merely trying to illuminate the problems, we need physical interventions that demonstrate viable alternatives. To inspire a mass exodus from universities, we must continue to struggle within existing institutions—such as through strikes and occupations—while we create autonomous universities that force the dominant ones to confront their own limits.
Summary — This interview explores such questions as: How can leftist movements be built across social divisions on campuses? What can we do to break radical theory out of its capture in academia? Can we create institutions that are embedded in movements and that provide alternatives for radicals who get stuck in precarious academic life?
by Sutapa Chattopadhyay (Maastricht University)
Today, frankly our universities are transformed into knowledge-for-profit-enclosures, as primarily ‘branded’ universities are sold-out to the policy elites (techno-scientific foundations, business consortia and multinationals) for the progress of scientific research, on which intellectual property rights are placed that exclude most people from its benefits. This is the reason we must connect with ecosocialist, ecofeminist and anarchist strategies, as these alternative theories and praxis can undo the rigid, hierarchical, authoritarian, hegemonic and provincial university education system toward a non-hierarchical, egalitarian, emancipatory knowledge locus.
Would you like to be interviewed as part of a militant co-research project on anti-capitalist struggles in universities?
A primary goal of this project is to create tools for anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, anti-oppressive movements on the terrain of universities. Another goal is to gather the forces of our movements through having conversations and making media that connect us with each other and our resources, thereby expanding and strengthening our relationships. Toward these ends, we’d like to interview you, eliciting your experiences and reflections on your attempts at interweaving radical pedagogy and radical organizing within and outside your classes, including your goals, curriculum design, tactics, context, tensions, obstacles, limiting and enabling conditions, etc.
As we aspire for this project to be one of ‘militant co-research,’ we are creating it in collaboration with multiple participants—including, hopefully, yourself—and producing different forms of media from it for our multiple audiences. Our interviews’ outcomes could include:
- Publishing edited versions of the interviews on libcom.org, edu-factory.org, and any other websites and listserves with a receptive, anti-capitalist audience.
- Collecting them on this website, which we’re developing for the project (https://classwaru.wordpress.com)—as a knowledge base for others to draw on when composing their own classes and organizing strategies. This is part of a wider project that originated in the “Occupy the AAG” meeting at the 2012 American Association of Geographers conference, continuing conversations from previous organizing (such as the “Beneath the University, the Commons” conference).
- Using them as a basis for analysis in our academic writing, along with articles for publication in free, open access websites and journals (some written anonymously, depending on the level of militancy of the content). We could co-write such articles.
- Using them in other forms for your own purposes beyond these listed here (e.g., to write texts that are tailored to the local contexts of the movements and terrains of struggle in which you are involved or for the specific context of your academic work).
Aiming for another principle of ‘militant co-research,’ we see these interviews and the wider project as mutually transformative processes—opening up our subjectivities, collectivities, knowledge, theories, goals, pedagogies, and organizing practices to possibilities of critique and change.
Finally, a note on anonymity: considering that being open about your radical politics could threaten both your academic employment and your radical organizing, we welcome you to choose to remain anonymous in the public presentation of these interviews. If you want to do so, let us know and we will remove any identifying info from all public circulations of this project.
If this sounds exciting to you, would you like to participate in an interview, or rather, a facilitated conversation? Our interview would take about an hour, and we would do it over Skype (so that we can record it). If you are interested, could you please tell us your availability within the next month or so?
Thank you very much for considering this. Do let us know if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, and if you’d like further information about the project.
Class War U
classwaru [at] gmail [dot] com
 On militant co-research, see, e.g., Marta Malo’s “Common Notions, part 2” – http://eipcp.net/transversal/0707/malo/en, and Malav Kanuga’s reading list – http://www.thisisforever.org/fall-seminar/readings
Have you tried to integrate radical organizing approaches with your classes? Have you attempted to engage your students in activist research, or militant co-research, participatory action research, etc.? How can classrooms be better tools for anti-capitalist movements?
We’re working on a project to create tools for anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian movements on the terrain of universities. To further this project we are seeking reflections on people’s experiences on using activist research in the classroom. If you are interested in participating, please email us at email@example.com and we will send you follow-up questions to elicit your experiences and reflections on your attempts at integrating radical organizing with your classes, including your goals, curriculum design, tactics, obstacles, etc.
Contributions will be collected into a user-friendly website as a knowledge base for others to draw on when composing their own classes and organizing strategies. The impetus for this call came from a group that is already attempting to make such an activist research class—a group of folks from the “Occupy the AAG” meeting at the 2012 AAG (Geography) conference. Also, we will use your contributions to analyze the limiting and enabling conditions for anti-capitalist organizing in universities, and we will present the results and some thoughts on strategies in a freely circulated articles.
Finally, a note about ANONYMITY: Considering that being open about your radical politics could threaten your employment situation, we welcome you to choose to remain anonymous either in your submission or in the public presentation of your reflections. If you want to do so, please let us know and we will remove any identifying info from all public circulations of this project.